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Object of the Month: April 2014

Craigie Aitchison RA, Crucifixion, 1988-89

Published 3 April 2014

The influence of Aitchison’s travels to Italy is evident in this representation of the Crucifixion, presented to the Academy on his election.

  • Aitchison initially studied Law at Edinburgh University before attending the Slade School of Fine Art in London from 1952. He travelled to Italy in 1955 on a British Council scholarship and was strongly influenced by both the subject matter and the landscaped represented in many of the paintings he saw there, including those by Piero della Francesca and Domenico Veneziano.

    Craigie Aitchison has said, “I think the story of the Crucifixion is one of the most exciting in the Bible.” It is fitting that the work that Aitchison’s presented to the Royal Academy on his election as Academician should address this subject which was one of the most prevalent themes in his work. Aitchison has pared down the narrative detail to evoke the dramatic mystery of the occasion and the mood of the work is heighted by the use of intense, pure colours. Even the figure of Christ is reduced to the bare essentials and is armless as Aitchison has felt that the figure was immediately recognisable and didn’t need arms. Although small in scale, the pale glow of the Christ figure is the lynchpin of the composition, unifying the spaces of earth and sky. The diagonal shaft of the foreground tree echoes an anointing beam of light and acts as a reminder that this spiritual subject is rooted in the reality of nature.

  • Craigie Aitchison RA, Crucifixion 1988/89

    Craigie Aitchison RA, Crucifixion 1988/89, 1988-1989.

    Oil on canvas. 61 X 48.2 cm. Photo: R.A./John Hammond. © Royal Academy of Arts, London.